Friday, July 11, 2008


According to Islamic cosmology, the universe is not reduced to corporeal and material existence but rather consists of different levels of existence. These levels are closely interrelated and mutually united. Any phenomenon that transpires in the lower realm of existence has a repercussion in the higher level of existence. The lowest level of existence is called al-dunya (fem. gender of al-adna which literally means ‘the lowest’). According to a tradition narrated from Amir al-mu’minin ‘Ali bin Abi Talib (‘a), the dunya was known as al-dunya “li annahaa adnaa min kulli shay” (because it is lower than every thing) (Shaykh al-Saduq, ‘Ilal al-Sharayi’, v.1, pp. 1-2). The intermediate level of existence which in reality also encompasses the lowest level, is known in Qur’anic terminology (23:100) as barzakh (barrier), for it serves as a barrier between the lowest of the realms of existence (al-dunya) and the level beyond which the Holy Qur’an terms as al-qiyama (the realm of resurrection). Qiyama therefore is a much higher reality of the dunya than barzakh. It is not a separate parallel realm of existence however, that comes after the end of this world in terms of time as the common man conjectures. Human beings endowed with sharp insight, depending on their level of self-purification and self-development, not only comprehend this material world, but can pierce the veils and vision the levels of barzakh or even beyond. The Holy Prophet (s) and his infallible progeny would tangibly see the reality of sin as fire, and thus would naturally refrain from the same. Although many of us cannot vision our higher states of barzakh and qiyama, if the curtains of material existence are unveiled, we would behold our awful state. No wonder, we clearly seek release from Hell Fire in so many supplications that we recite. We do not seek protection of Hell Fire on the Judgment Day but emancipation from Hell Fire now and here. In the well-known supplication of Jawshan al-Kabir, for example, we employ the phrase ‘khallisna min al-naari yaa Rabb’ (release me from Hell Fire, O Lord’. With this integral principle in mind, let us struggle to release ourselves from the trouble of barzakh and beyond and extinguish the fire we have ignited, through the water of tawba and istighfar (seeking forgiveness).

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